Last summer, the government published “A National Plan for music education.” Whilst schools are crushed under the weight of non-statutory guidance from the Department for Education, telling schools they should be doing this, or they should be doing that, this was one plan that I could fully support. The ministerial foreword says:
Excellent music education opens opportunities, but it is not simply a means to an end: it is also an end in itself. It gives children and young people an opportunity to express themselves, to explore their creativity, to work hard at something, persevere and shine. These experiences and achievements stay with them and shape their lives.From The Power of Music to Change Lives: a national plan for music education, June 2022
I found myself in the unusual position of being inspired by a piece of government guidance!
I grew up playing instruments, having lessons on the piano and guitar throughout my school days. I was in bands and ensembles from primary school, through university and beyond. When I completed my newly qualified teacher year, I bought myself a saxophone as a “congratulations” present to myself, alongside a challenge to learn to play it well enough to be in the band for my school’s production of Bugsy Malone in the next academic year.
Since then I have played in pit bands for school productions of Grease, Little Shop of Horrors, Godspell, Return to the Forbidden Planet (three times!) and more. I’ve directed – and even written! – musicals. I’ve played in big bands, covers bands, rock bands and jazz groups. There’s nothing quite like playing with others, sharing never-to-be-repeated moments in live performance, where the interactions and interplay between the musicians and the audiences create that unique moment in time for all involved.
This is why I am pleased to see the Department for Education prioritising music education. There is a recognition of the contribution that music makes to the economy, and the careers that can be pursued within the music industry; this is, after all, a government document. But it is also clear that a good quality music education is a right for all our young people.
We are fortunate at Churchill to be building on a firm foundation, with an established strength in the musical life of the school, supported by the North Somerset music service and, more locally, the amazing support of Churchill Music. Our partnership with Churchill Music continues to thrive, not least in the Churchill Young Musician of the Year competition which took place on Monday.
This competition, along with the wealth of musical activities across the school, shows that music is at the very heart of our education at Churchill – and will continue to be there, whether or not the government issues non-statutory guidance to tell us that it should be.